When Failure is Not an Option

Jun 12

Written by: Heather L Sidorowicz
6/12/2013 5:10 PM  RssIcon

It was a cold and stormy night… Actually, it was a mild dreary day. All of our techs were on deck at a new golf clubhouse we had been working on for months. The new clubhouse would offer six zones of audio, five flat screens in the bar/restaurant, plus one more in the pro shop (two of these sets would be digital signage TVs). The system would be controlled via Crestron, complete with a 5-inch touchscreen housed in the bar.

Time was of the essence as the clubhouse was due to open in 24 hours. We had been pushed back repeatedly due to no power in the building, delayed installation of the floor, and all sorts of other issues with the building.

11:56 a.m.: “Hey,” says my tech, “so, we’re not getting a picture from the FioS boxes to the TVs. I called Atlona and…” he pauses, “turns out Cisco and Scientific Atlantic don’t currently support HDbaseT.”

To alleviate HDMI issues we had chosen to go with Atlona’s new HDBaseT baluns. This was supposed to solve problems, not create them. So please, write it down and make a mental note. Currently HDbaseT is not supported by Cisco (the boxes we had) and Scientific Atlantic.

Our two choices at this point were to overnight HDSync boxes from Atlona or try to swap out the Verizon boxes with a box that is actually supported.

Noon: I call the golf pro in charge of the project. “So, I need your account information to contact Verizon and try to get the boxes swapped out.” I then explain (best as I can) the situation.

“I’ll send an email with the contact information I have,” he informs me.

So I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

2 p.m.: I call, leave a voice mail, and then an email requesting the information again.

2:32: Unable to wait idle, I call our local Verizon store to see if they know anything about HDbaseT. Surprise! They don’t. However, I strike gold and find a FiOS manager I’ve done business with before. She informs me she cannot make the swap of the boxes, but that they do have Motorola 7100 Series boxes available.

2:39: I contact Atlona tech support and find out that, yes, those boxes support HDbaseT. Now I just need Verizon’s approval.

2:45: Account information is finally received from the golf pro. At this point I had come out of a meeting and was sitting at the side of the thruway waiting to get word. I call Verizon’s Fiber Solutions Center.

2:51: No. I’m told it cannot be done. Boxes cannot be swapped without a field tech going to the site to deem it is necessary.

Do I pack it in and go home? Heck no! I charge forward. “No” is not an option. So at 2:54 I am transferred up the FiOS food chain to seek approval.

My phone is dying. I am on hold, again.

3:05: I have now been on the phone for 39 minutes. I throw my car into drive and cruise over to the local Best Buy (Yeah, yeah, I know). I walk in, the entire time with my phone up to my ear. I ask the first guy I can find for a USB Thunderbolt power cable, to plug into my car. The guy in blue brings me to the area, I grab it, and check out. All while still on hold.

3:11: The wonderful Verizon man on the other side has received approval. (Ever wonder about the person that gives approval? No one talks directly to this person. It’s like Oz, the man behind the curtain). The FiOS guy calls the local store and lets them know I’m on my way out to pick up the boxes.

Success! I hope…

I cruise the 32 minutes to the store, grab the boxes, and head over to the golf club, but not before I make a stop to pick up water and drinks for the techs (because that is what a good manager should do) and then I have to stop where my other tech is working (on another large job—this one URC Total Control) to pick up some parts out of that van.

4:49: Arrive at the club. Did I mention this is a Friday?

5:58: After all of the boxes are connected, I call to active them. I’m placed on hold for 43 minutes.

6:03: FiOS cannot activate the boxes. No activation code has been attached to the account.

Seriously.

I’ve been on the line for an hour and a half, before we figure out that the router has been put in “bridge” mode by the IT guys and FiOS boxes cannot be activated without internet. We try a few things to no avail.

Prognosis is dire.

6:47: I’m on speakerphone with Verizon. My tech is in front of the pro on speakerphone with IT. We all determine that they will have to come out to resolve the issue on Monday.

Monday. I’m crushed. All of this work... hours of solving the problem only to hit a wall. Every story doesn’t have a happy ending, I suppose.

7:18: Feeling defeated, we leave with no active boxes.

But wait, there’s more…

7:21: My Tech receives a text from the IT guy: “We’re on our way over. Be there in a half an hour.”

Do we turn around? Yes! (After grabbing a quick bite to eat).

8:36: Back at the club, we can now see the FiOS menu on the screen. This is a very good sign.

8:57: The angels swoop down from Heaven and give us a picture. I swear it is the sweetest HD picture I have ever seen.

9:03: We shake hands with IT and the pro and go home.

Would the world have ended if we didn’t go so far? Absolutely not. Would the tournament still have happened the next day without anything on the TVs? Yep. However, I know the owner of the club and the pro would be sure to tell our story when someone said: “Nice TVs.” I know the next time they are talking about the system, they’ll remember we went the extra mile. Having someone drop your name is one thing, but having him or her praise your company and how far you’ll go for them is another. They’ll be sure to let your next client know that failure is not an option.

Tell me your story in the comments below!

 
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.
 

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5 comment(s) so far...


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Re: When Failure is Not an Option

Really like Heather's blogs. Always right on, although sometimes they make me wonder why we choose this profession.

Steve Tucker
Principal, Tucker & Tucker

By Steve Tucker on   6/13/2013 2:08 PM
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Re: When Failure is Not an Option

Nice job Heather - your commitment to getting it right is inspirational.

FYI - with Crestron DigitalMedia this issue is corrected natively. Also if you ever run into this problem again you can simply insert a Crestron HD-DA-2 or HD-SCALER to overcome the deficiencies of the HDMI transmitter chip.

By Ben DeFilippo on   6/14/2013 10:32 AM
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Re: When Failure is Not an Option

Hi Heather, after reading your detailed account of events it reminded me of the challenges I faced everyday in the field. I can certainly empathize with your frustration.

The issue technically is that HDMI 1.3 and above standards support what is termed clock stretching for the i2c buss protocol. HDBaseT follows these exacting HDMI standards. When devices like the Scientific Atlantic box don’t, it results in no picture. This can be resolved by swapping out the box for a newer version or different brand of box. The challenge is that a cable provider tech may not know what clock stretching is and thus doesn’t know how to resolve. What is interesting is this seems to be localized in the East Coast as cable providers are recycling older 1.2 HDMI boxes and putting them back in the field that don't comply with HDMI 1.3 standards. Atlona Tech support has recommended the HDSYNC as 99% of the cases it has restored video. It re-clocks the signal helping to solve this issue.

By Atlona Product Team on   6/14/2013 12:27 PM
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Re: When Failure is Not an Option

Hi Heather, you are a true champion and hero. It intrigues me why some of us choose this profession.

By Hovsep Margaryan on   6/15/2013 2:12 PM
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Re: When Failure is Not an Option

Been there done that... not the HDBaseT deal but just the general "don't take no for an answer" Love it, Live it.

By Bradley Elliott on   6/15/2013 4:12 PM

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